There are two things virtually every business owner and executive wants to accomplish online: They want to completely dominate their competitors; and they want to do so without spending a penny more than necessary.

It can be a tough balancing act to achieve. The more you want to reach customers on the internet, the more there is to pay for. Web design, content creation, online video, and social marketing all eat up chunks of your budget, as does online advertising. And yet, there are businesses that manage to attract the attention of buyers – profitably and efficiently – month after month.

How do they do it? Today I’m going to share four tips you can use to dominate your online competitors on a tight budget. Better yet, they are battle-tested pieces of advice that actually work, and that you can use right away…

#1 Outthink Instead of Outspending

A lot of marketers assume they have to start spending more to get bigger results from their campaigns. That’s sometimes true, but a better first step is to focus more intently on your most likely buyers, while virtually ignoring other groups in the process.

A better first step is to focus more intently on your most likely buyers, while virtually ignoring other groups in the process.

To understand why this can make such a huge difference, know that the typical advertiser wastes at least 25% of their pay-per-click advertising budget.  Even in situations where they are paying for every single visit to their website, a quarter of the prospects they attract are a poor fit for the products and services that are being offered.

The same thing happens with search engine optimization and social media. Wasted time, effort, and money mean you aren’t going to get the kind of ROI you should be from your activities. So, reduce the waste in your campaigns by devoting all of your firepower to the men and women who are most likely to buy from you now, and keep buying from you later.

#2 Don’t Look at the Wrong Stats

A graphic of social media impact on business

More than nine out of 10 marketers say social media is important,  but only four out of 10 business leaders say they can tell that it’s had an impact on their business.  What gives?

The answer has to do with the fact that it’s so easy to find yourself chasing the wrong metrics online. Indicators like page views, likes, and visits can make you feel like you’re accomplishing quite a bit. If they aren’t backed up by conversions in the form of phone calls, purchases, or online leads, however, they represent wasted time and missed opportunities.

When evaluating the effectiveness of your campaigns, look for statistics that are actually meaningful. Forget how many people have seen your ad, or even clicked on it. What percentage of your audience is opening your emails and clicking through to your landing page? How many searchers are deciding to download your report? Which of your leads are converting into sales, and where are they coming from?

Those are the figures that matter if you want to get business results from your website without spending huge amounts on marketing.

#3 Get Creative with Your Messaging

On the internet, creativity is virtually always more powerful than brute force. It’s better to have a message that’s seen by 100,000 viewers because it’s being spread around by fans and followers, than it is to attract that same audience through a paid advertisement.

Of course, building viral campaigns is difficult. But, you can encourage the process by building a strong brand that buyers react to on an emotional level. You can also use content formats that customers prefer. For instance, one advertiser found that using multiple photos in one message increased clicks by more than 1,000%.  Why swim against the stream when you can make it easy for fans and followers to share your material?

You’ll probably want to use a mix of organic content and paid advertising to promote your business through search engines and social media. Whichever way you go, emphasize creativity and flair over a bigger budget. You’ll end up with stronger marketing materials and more successful campaigns.

#4 Build from a Profitable Position

A classic mistake in any form of sales and marketing is to devote a lot of time and money to a strategy you aren’t sure will work. There is a time for testing and risk-taking, naturally, but the bulk of your resources should be pointed at proven strategies that you know can be used to reach your target audience.

Don’t pour more into your budget just for the sake of making it bigger. Instead, find a few cornerstones of your plan that you know will yield predictable results, invest most heavily in those, and then use the remaining 20% or so of your expenditures to try new things. That might not be as exciting as chasing the latest trend would be, but it’s a great way to keep your ROI in positive territory.

According to one survey, internet marketing is set to increase more than 15% over the next three years.  That means the billions that are already being spent on Google, Facebook, and elsewhere are only going to grow. The question isn’t whether the money will be spent, but whether it’s going to be spent well.

You don’t have to spend every dollar your company brings in to succeed in the internet. You just have to know the four strategies efficient companies use to dominate their competitors and then follow them.

The Takeaways

  • Focus your internet marketing campaigns so you’re only targeting likely buyers.
  • Ignore vanity metrics that don’t tell you anything about the way your online marketing campaigns are performing.
  • Use ads and messaging that are based on creativity, not big expenditures.
  • Devote the bulk of your budget to proven strategies, and then experiment and grow your campaigns over time.